Prof Neil Ferguson: Indian variant not spreading as quickly as feared in UK

·2-min read

The Indian Covid variant in Britain appears not to spread at the feared most alarming rate which could have sparked a huge third Covid-19 wave in Britain, a leading expert said today.

Professor Neil Ferguson said the B1.617.2 mutation is believed to have a “significant growth advantage” over other coronavirus variants, but this “magnitude seems to have dropped a little bit”.

Confirmed cases of this variant have soared in Bolton, Bedford, Blackburn and other communities.

Scientists warned that if it was 50 per cent more transmissable than the Kent variant it could trigger a very large third wave of infections in the UK, but if it was 20 or 30 per cent more it would be easier to contain given the high level of vaccinations.

Prof Ferguson, the Imperial College London expert whose work led to the first lockdown in March 2020, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s a glimmer of hope from the recent data that whilst this variant does still appear to have a significant growth advantage, the magnitude of that advantage seems to have dropped a little bit with the most recent data.

“The curves are flattening a little.

“But it will take more time for us to be definitive about that.

“It’s much easier to deal with 20 to 30 per cent than it would be 50 per cent or more.”

Watch: 'Politicians only act when they see people in hospital' expert says

Prof Ferguson said the variant had been largely introduced into the UK by people arriving from India.

A significant number of these individuals lived in multi-generational households, and often in quite deprived areas with high housing density, which makes these communities more vulnerable to the virus.

Scientists were now seeking to determine how quickly the variant will spread in other parts of the country.

Prof Ferguson believes it is in the balance whether the Government will proceed with the final stage of easing lockdown on June 21 given the threat from the variant.

Boris Johnson later offered some hope that the lockdown easing would go ahead as plan, telling MPs there was “increasing confidence” that vaccines were effective against variants including the Indian strain.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “We’ve looked at the data again this morning and I can tell the House we have increasing confidence that vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant.”

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